Solar inverter and asset management sights at RE+ 2022


RE+ 2022 in Anaheim, California, was a frenzied flood of people and products and a glimpse of the clean-energy future expedited by the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. I couldn’t go more than a few minutes without hearing people discussing the new law or seeing a sign at a booth about how the IRA makes a company’s products more attractive. I attempted to attend one IRA-related educational session, but the room was packed to overflowing and the panel had more questions than answers. The entire industry is waiting for the Dept. of Treasury guidance that will clarify many of the bill’s provisions, with no clear timeline for when that guidance might come.

In the inverter and power electronics space, manufacturers showed off the products added to their lineups to serve all residential solar + storage + EV charging needs with one brand — giving customers the option to purchase cohesive systems that communicate well and allow for one phone call to troubleshoot a system. Other companies showed products and software meant to simplify and automate project permitting, O&M and more.

Here are the new releases I checked out on the floor at RE+ 2022.

Enphase’s IQ8 microinverter

For the first time in my solar reporting career, Enphase invested in a booth at RE+. The company showcased its microgrid-forming IQ8 microinverter, a product that has gotten tons of hype since its announcement. This inverter is capable of forming a microgrid during a power outage during the day using only sunlight — providing backup power even without a battery. It may look like any other microinverter, but the custom application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) chip gives it those special microgrid capabilities.

SolarEdge’s smarter C&I power optimizers

SolarEdge has been emphasizing its whole-home, DC-optimized smart energy ecosystem over the past year, so the company brought all the pieces and parts to RE+. One product from the line was a smarter C&I power optimizer that can sense thermal events and send the system into safety mode. In addition to residential products, SolarEdge will be releasing a 330-kW string inverter for community solar applications, with plans to even enter the utility-scale space in 2023. SolarEdge reps acknowledged that an optimizer-paired inverter may be a tough sell for the utility-scale market, but said SolarEdge’s unique topology will be a good fit for the market.

Growatt’s numerous residential solar + backup configurations

Growatt’s booth displayed numerous solar + storage configurations to fit different residential needs. The company has a whole-home backup solution with 9.9-kWh batteries that can be connected in parallel for nearly 40 kWh of power; a smaller “critical load” backup system designed for just a few essential circuits, and an off-grid system for remote areas.

SMA America’s residential inverters with Backup Select

SMA America’s string inverters with “Backup Select” capabilities can provide power to anything plugged into its integrated critical loads panel even without a battery, as long as the sun is shining. This feature is familiar in the inverter world, with Enphase IQ8 microinverters providing a similar function through the company’s “Sunlight Backup” capability. Still, SMA’s next-generation string inverter is meant to be paired with energy storage and has been redesigned as a DC-coupled hybrid inverter. This model is tested to work with BYD batteries for now, with plans for more in the future.

Sungrow’s power-dense utility-scale inverter skid

Sungrow prioritized installer requests in its new all-in-one SG4400 utility-scale inverter skid. The new product is four different inverter modules so if one goes down, the whole plant isn’t affected. This inverter packs almost double the power in the same footprint as its model from five years ago. Engineers added plenty of space in each inverter module for installers to comfortably work on wiring.

GoodWe/GE’s hybrid inverter with direct EV plugin

GoodWe has a licensing agreement with GE and was showing off its GE-branded hybrid inverter, the GEH US, which allows an EV charger to be plugged directly into the inverter and eliminates the need to add another breaker for an EV charger hookup. The GEH is a split-phase inverter that is compatible with high-voltage batteries and offers up to four MPPTs.

APsystems’ 4-module C&I microinverter

APsystems’ new most powerful QT2 4-module C&I microinverter comes in 208- and 480-V options for less losses and higher output. Both this commercial and the company’s residential DS3 dual-module microinverter are designed to work with the latest high-power modules. The company likely won’t go higher than four modules per micro, but found this solution decreases costs and increases installation speed for contractors.

Fluke’s new six-in-one solar measurement tool

Fluke’s new Solar Multifunction Tester combines the functions of six different solar O&M tools into one. The tester has a built-in IV curve tracer that displays on-screen, rather than the old method of displaying it on a separate PC screen. It comes in a kit with the company’s solar irradiance meter, both of which fit snugly in the included custom backpack.

CPS America’s PCS energy storage inverter

CPS America’s AC-coupled PCS energy storage inverter is rack-mountable in 1-MW stacks and includes the DC voltage range to work with many different battery brands. These inverters designed for C&I and utility-scale installations can perform load-shifting, demand charge reduction, ancillary grid support services and more.

EPCpower’s Made-in-America energy storage inverters

EPCpower’s utility-scale and large commercial energy storage inverters are Made in America at a factory in Poway, California, and soon in Greenville, South Carolina. The inverters come in a stainless steel version to withstand salty air and other harsh environments. The company has plans to expand its line to include solar inverters but has focused on the battery market for its 12 years in business so far. A recent acquisition from Goldman Sachs and Cleanhill Partners should help with expansion.

SenseHawk’s workflow automation software

SenseHawk is dedicated to automating as many steps as possible in both solar construction and asset management. The software includes detailed maps of solar sites, checklists and manuals so techs spend less time getting oriented and solving problems at sites. The solution works offline and syncs when re-connected to the internet for workers at remote project locations.

Transect’s environmental permitting solution

Transect has released a data-aggregating solution to expedite the typically tedious and long-term environmental permitting step of the solar development process. The company takes both publicly available data and proprietary datasets related to environmental permitting, including endangered species, waterways and more, and condenses the information into an easy-to-read web format. At a glance, developers can see the environmental problems they may face with a site and decide if mitigation will be plausible, or if it’s a non-starter.

Morningstar’s off-grid inverter in new power classes

Morningstar Corp. has expanded its line of tried-and-true SureSine off-grid inverters to meet higher-power needs. The company stuck with the same core technology and passive cooling in new options, with some enhancements to communications. The SureSine inverter line will connect seamlessly to the company’s new DC system controller, which has also been updated to provide broader system visibility in the same user interface.

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